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Safety

SAFER HANDLING: OSHA Walking-Working Surfaces Standard Allows for Some Flexibility in Compliance

* By Jean Feingold *

In the fall of 2016, the U.S. Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) passed a new walking-working surfaces standard for general industry (29 CFR 1910 Subpart D) which includes significant changes to fall protection requirements. Most sections of the new rule took effect on January 17, 2017. Although OHSA started working on revisions to this rule in 1992, its implementation of the revised rule caught industry and the code enforcement community by surprise. The updated fall protection rules let employers select the fall protection system that works best for them, choosing from a range of accepted options including personal fall protection systems. Use of these systems has been allowed in construction under 29 CFR 1926 since 1994. The final rule makes fall protection requirements for general industry more aligned with the construction rule.

“The OSHA 1910 standard focuses on increasing safety and decreasing worker injury when working at height and on the safety of walking and working surfaces for workers in general industry environments,” explained MHI member Gorbel Product Sales Manager Kevin Duhamel. The new rule has made some helpful changes by focusing on industry consensus standards, latest technology and industry best practices. Some changes include adding new requirements for personal fall protection equipment, expanding the types of equipment available in fall protection applications and requiring worker training on personal fall protection systems and fall equipment. This will help workers identify fall hazards and mitigate them with the latest equipment and best practices.

Duhamel said there have been many improvements in fall protection in the construction industry. By aligning 29 CFR1910 with 29 CFR 1926, similar improvements in general industry are likely “by allowing employers to choose the most appropriate fall protection equipment for the application. In the past, 1910 mandated the use of guardrails as the primary form of fall protection. The construction industry has had flexibility to choose other types of fall protection for years and now so does general industry.”

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